Founded by Phocaean Greeks 2 600 years ago, Marseille is France’s oldest town, a melting pot of peoples and cultures, and a gateway to southern Europe and North Africa. Today, the city is still dependent on the port for its revenue and is dominated by fishing boats and people selling fresh produce.
Marseille is cut in half by La Canebière, one of the main shopping streets, which runs west to east from the Vieux Port. The city is divided into 15 arrondissements (districts), ranging from gentrified to run-down, and is famed for its fish-dominated culinary menu and its potent aniseed tipple, called pastis.
The exclusivity increases as you head further south to the corniche and Prado, the city’s best beach, with three kilometres of fine sand.
Château d'If was, historically, France’s very own Alcatraz, built in 1527 and used as a prison in the 17th century. This place was the inspiration for Alexandre Dumas's novel "The Count of Monte Cristo", and occupies an island of its own 1.5 km offshore.
Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde
The defining symbol of Marseille towers on a hilltop 154 metres above the city, with the gilded statue of the Virgin Mary stretching skywards. The views from up here are simply stunning. Take the shuttle for convenience or embark on a just-under-an-hour-long hike up from the old port.
La Part des Anges
La Part des Anges is a great little bar for connoisseurs of good wine, or even those who are only looking to learn (and try!) more of what makes the noble drink. Order an assorted plate of meats and/or cheeses (the selection is impressive) to complete the experience.
Good to know
The best way to get around in Marseille is by using the very efficient metro system which runs between 6 am and 9 pm. With two lines, it is part of a wider Marseille public transport network (RTM) that includes buses (which run later). The public transport network consist of the metro, buses, trams, trains and ferries.
There are different types of tickets depending on your preferences. A useful ticket is the Carte Groupe for four to twelve people, which makes a single journey cheaper. A 24H/72H card is also available: it allows you to make as many journeys as you like on the RTM network.
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